Reward vs Punishment: How should parents handle behavioural issues in children?

A number of Omani parents surveyed by the Observer think that the use of violence to penalize bad behaviour in children is a regressive step. Would you agree?  


Is the threat of punishment, such as a spanking or a smack, likely to instill good behaviour in children?
A number of Omani parents surveyed by the Observer think that the use of violence to penalize bad behaviour in children is a regressive step. There is broad consensus that, in today’s modern era, incentivizing and rewarding good behaviour is more likely to have a positive, long-term impact on children than wielding the threat of physical punishment.
That said, rewards should not be handed out at the drop of a hat, says Abdullah al Busaidy, a teacher at a public school in Al Batinah Governorate. “A reward will have the desired results if it is linked to clearly and concretely defined positive behaviour on the part of the child.
For example, if the child keeps their room suitable tidy or if they perform well in their studies, a reward may be appropriate in these instances. Just handing out goodies as a reward for good behaviour in general can be counter-productive,” he warns.
The educationalist however strongly cautions against bribing as a way of inducing good behavior in a child. The risk here is that the child sees the bribe in material value terms and weighs it against the sacrifices needed to be made to be adjudged as behaving well. This approach to inducing good behavior is potentially fraught with problems in the future, he warns.
Abdullah argues that it may be worthwhile to make an assessment of the kind of reward that a child would welcome in lieu of good behavior. If given the opportunity for choose his or her reward, what would the child opt for? A reward that is consistent with the child’s expectations is likely to be not only well-received but will also help reinforce the child’s confidence in his or her capabilities, he points out.
When rewarding young people, it is also imperative that the good behavior and positive actions of the children are publicly recognized and affirmed, says Abdullah. “Students like to be appreciated and recognized in the presence of their classmates. Even modest rewards and uplifting words can steer them towards more positive outcomes and greater accomplishments. The teacher, in question, also wins the respect and admiration of their wards.”
Before handing out rewards, parents are also encouraged to make a judgment call as to whether the gifts in questions will likely to act positively in driving better behavior, or conversely, be received with some disdain by the child. After all, most rewards are of a material nature, such as money, small toys, a trip to the parks, candy, and so on. Rewards can also be non-materialistic, such as hugs, kisses, praises, or attention.
“Parents can consider a combination of material and non-material rewards. These must be given promptly, and without any delay,” the teacher noted.
Omani homemaker Zainab al Hosni, mother of two boys and two girls, says she’s opposed to any physical punishment as a response to improper behavior from her children. “I tend to reward good behavior with candy or money, and we go to the mall, I hand out small toys for my children. But I’ve learnt the important of non-materialistic rewards as well, such as hugs and appreciative words, which enhances the self-esteem of my children.”
Zakia al Hasani, a public sector employee, says she finds “hugs, kisses and affectionate words” more effective than toys or sweets when dealing with her infant daughter. “Material rewards should not take precedence over gestures and words that reinforce the sense of love and affection you have for the child. This is paramount,” she said.